by Joseph Earp
Carmelite tradition traces the origin of the order to a community of hermits on Mount Carmel, which succeeded the schools of the prophets in ancient Israel or the Crusader states. There are no certain records of hermits on this mountain before the 1190s. By this date a group of men had gathered at the well of Elijah on Mount Carmel. These men, who had gone to Palestine from Europe either as pilgrims or as crusaders, chose Mount Carmel in part because it was the traditional home of Elijah. The foundation is believed to have been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Virtually nothing is known of the Carmelites from 1214, when Albert died, until 1238. The Rule of St. Albert was approved by Pope Honorius III in 1226, and again by Pope Gregory IX in 1229, with a modification regarding ownership of property and permission to celebrate divine services. The Carmelites next appear in the historical record, in 1238, when with the increasing cleavage between the West and the East, the Carmelites found it advisable to leave the Near East. Many moved to Cyprus and Sicily.
In 1242, the Carmelites migrated west. The Order grew quickly after reaching Europe. By the end of the thirteenth century, the order had around 150 houses in Europe, divided into twelve provinces throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. In England, the Order had 30 houses under four ‘distinctions’: London, Norwich, Oxford and York, as well as new houses in Scotland and Ireland. It has been estimated that the total Carmelite population in England between 1296 and 1347 was about 720, with the largest house (London), having over 60 friars, but most averaging between 20 and 30.
Sometime before 1271 a small group of Carmelite Friars acquired a plot of land to establish a new Friary between St. James Lane and Moothall Gate in Nottingham. They also acquired a row of houses which bounded their property to the north along the side of Beast Market Hill. The Friary itself was a modest group of buildings for the Carmelites were an order bound to a vow of poverty and relying on begging and charity for a living. Very quickly after the establishment of the Friary, Moothall Gate became known as Friar Lane, – a name by which it is still known today. The Friars where to remain on this site for the next 250 years.
The friary was dissolved as part of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was surrendered by Prior Roger Cappe on 5 February 1539. The friary was, at the time, home to six friars: William Cooke, William Frost, John Roberts, William Smithson, William Thorpe, Robert Wilson. The friary site was granted, in 1541, to James Sturley of Nottingham.
Nothing remains of the former Friary. It stood near to the south-west corner of Old Market Square; the priory precinct occupying the area between Friar Lane and St James Street. The area has been heavily developed since the dissolution and the site has been “almost solidly built over” It is remembered locally in the street name: “Friar Lane”.